Fire! Fire!—What To Do When You’re Feeling Burned Out

People often say they feel “burned out” by their struggles with anxiety, but most are unaware of the deeper truth behind this metaphor.

Imagine soaking your hands in bleach for several hours, even days. You would get a chemical burn that left your skin severely raw and irritated. Even brushing up against something afterward might hurt tremendously. In a similar way, the chemicals (glucocorticoids) produced by the brain’s fear response are caustic. When persistently stressful or traumatic events trigger prolonged or too intense exposure to these chemicals, they create something like a chemical burn on your amygdala, the CEO of fear/protection system. At the very least, this can cause us to feel every stressor more acutely. Making it harder to respond in a calm. Rational way. If anxiety persists, the amygdala blasts chemicals at another part of the brain called the hippocampus, which stores emotional memories.

If the amygdala is the CEO of your fear/protection system, the hippocampus is the board secretary. While the amygdala is triggered in the presence of a threat, its the hippocampus’ job to “take notes” and remember that a particular event was anxiety-producing the past. The next time you encounter that same event, or even something remotely similar, the hippocampus triggers the amygdala and reminds you that you “should” feel anxious—even if there is no practical immediate threat present.

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For more on understanding and overcoming your anxiety

Check out:

Unworried—A Life Without Anxiety

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Calming down this threat system in our brain is an important aspect to overcoming burn out and finding peace.

Here are three ways to recover from burn out:

Be aware of your physical signs of stress—Stress shows up in our body (i.e. tight muscles, sweaty palms, wrinkled forehead) before our brain is willing to admit to itself that it’s stressed (i.e. feeling stressed/overwhelmed/anxious). Be conscious of these physical signs and when you start to notice your muscles tensing, or your breath becoming shorter/your chest feeling tighter or heavier. Focus on relaxing these physical responses to stress through rolling out your shoulders, stretching your neck, or taking slow deep breaths in order to decrease the stress chemicals in your brain before they take over your feelings.

Take breaks—Taking breaks from stress to do things that occupy you mentally and physically is a great way to decrease anxiety. Go for a walk while counting how many runners or cars you see, engage in a brief exercise break like doing 25 sit ups or 15 pushups, or take deep breaths as you say a short prayer. These breaks are not about finding long escapes from stress, but instead focus on taking down your anxiety in your environment.

Focus on Controllables—Increased anxiety often leads to a sense of powerlessness. We often focus on what we can’t control or what we wish we could do which leads to greater anxiety due to a heightened sense of a perceived threat in our brain. Focusing instead on what we can control—such as our responses, our breathing, our next step towards a solution—we are able to decrease the level of perceived threat and subsequently decrease our anxiety.

If you want more tips or greater support for overcoming your anxiety, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com

Mount St. Mary’s President Resigns: Do YOU Work for A Narcissist?

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The news was released today that President Simon Newman of Mount St. Mary’s University resigned in the wake of the scandal caused both by his policy to aggressively encourage underperforming students to leave the school as a ploy to increase the school’s rankings, and then summarily firing tenured faculty who opposed the policy for being “disloyal.”  Matters were made worse when it was released that President Newman defended his unpopular policy by asserting, “You just have to drown the bunnies…put a Glock to their heads.”

While it is impossible to accurately analyze President Newman’s motivations from afar, his public behavior serves as a useful illustration of the behavior of a narcissist at work.  Narcissists tend to lack empathy, make unilateral and autocratic decisions and become outraged at the idea that anyone would oppose them.  At work, they tend to promise great things and then try to achieve those goals by force of will rather than through collaboration.  If the goals are met, they are praised by the power-that-be as heroes.  If not, their flame-out can be something to behold.

The faculty and students at Mount St. Mary’s are not the only ones who seem to  feel they have been affected by workplace narcissism.  Workplace narcissism is not unusual at all.  Many middle and upper level managers as well as executives exhibit strong narcissistic traits.  Do YOU work for a narcissist and, if you do, how should you handle it.

Industrial psychologist, Bernardo Tirado, suggests three steps for dealing with narcissists in the workplace.  The following represent highlights from his tips.

Dealing with Workplace Narcissists:  3 Steps

Step 1:  Determine if he or she is a true Narcissist

Find out if the person is a true Narcissist.  Use the PsychCentral.com called Narcissistic Personality Quiz.  Although it’s designed to determine if you’re a narcissist, it can be easily applied it to the person you’re trying to assess. 

Step 2:  Know How a Narcissist Thinks

Narcissists, by definition,  only care about themselves.  When working with a narcissist, you need to keep in mind that they will never be your best friend.  They will befriend you to see what they can get out of you and in their mind, will do favors expecting that you will do the same.  Unfortunately, in the workplace you can’t just write this person off and walk away.  So the best thing to do is to go along with him or her.

Narcissists also don’t do well with criticism.  If you ever have an issue with a narcissist never blame him or her directly as this will only infuriate them.  The best thing to do is to be indirect and talk around the issue.  So make it more about how you feel and how it’s impacting you versus how they are at fault.

Narcissists also expect you to be immediately responsive the moment they demand attention.  I once had a boss that would send me an instant message asking if I was there at my desk, then a minute later he would send me an email, and then another minute later he would call my phone.  All because he wanted a very trivial question answered. 

After he did this to me a few times, I caught onto his psychological game and so what did I start to do?  I ignored him.  It’s a risky play to ignore a narcissist but in this case, I knew that he was always persistent to the point that if I was not there to answer his question, he would find someone else that would.  I leave it with you to decide what best works for you.  What you need to know is that when a narcissist wants something, they want it now.

Step 3:  Working with a Narcissist

Always lead with how you feel first.  Narcissists are caught up in their own world and as a result, lack empathy.  Sharing your emotions is a huge blind spot because you’re forcing them to put your feelings first. 

If that feels too vulnerable, the next strategy is to focus on solutions and not the problem.  Narcissists like to focus on the problem and dissect it over and over again.  Rather than falling into the pitfall of seeing the glass half empty, flip it on its head and influence the narcissist to see the glass half full.  State the problem and quickly move towards to the solution. 

It’s typically best to present several solutions.  Narcissists like to be in control and if you can provide options, the better off you are.  Options are a way to unconsciously make them feel like you respect their opinion and are asking for them to control the direction of the solution.

Lastly, if all else fails then your last option is to make them feel special and unique.  Narcissists get high off of being in power and live for attention and admiration.  If you want them to do something, tell them how great they are and watch them perform. 

Tirado’s tips highlight the fact that you shouldn’t think that you cure the workplace narcissist or even get them to be more empathic with you.  True narcissists just don’t have it in them and nothing you can do will change that.  But you can still thrive if your boss is a narcissist by knowing how they work and how to work around them.  If you are looking for even more tips for dealing more gracefully with both the narcissists and other prickly people in your life, check out God Help Me, These People Are Driving Me Nuts!  Making Peace with Difficult People!

Is YOUR Spouse Holding You Back?

As much as we might try to leave personal lives at home, the personality traits of a spouse have a way of following us into the workplace, exerting a powerful influence on promotions, salaries, job shutterstock_218879872satisfaction and other measures of professional success, new research suggests.

When it comes to pay raises, promotions and other measures of career success,  the husband or wife at home may be exerting a bigger influence on workplace performance than we think, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis. “Our study shows that it is not only your own personality that influences the experiences that lead to greater occupational success, but that your spouse’s personality matters too,” said Joshua Jackson, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences and lead author of the study.  Although we marry “for better for worse, for richer for poorer,” this study is among the first to demonstrate that the personality traits of the spouse we choose may play a role in determining whether our chosen career makes us richer or poorer.

“The experiences responsible for this association are not likely isolated events where the spouse convinces you to ask for a raise or promotion,” Jackson said. “Instead, a spouse’s personality influences many daily factors that sum up and accumulate across time to afford one the many actions necessary to receive a promotion or a raise.”

Forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, the findings are based on a five-year study of nearly 5,000 married people ranging in age from 19 to 89, with both spouses working in about 75 percent of the sample.   Jackson and co-author Brittany Solomon, a graduate student in psychology at Washington University, analyzed data on study participants who took a series of psychological tests to assess their scores on five broad measures of personality — openness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness.

In an effort to gauge whether these spousal personality traits might be seeping into the workplace, they tracked the on-the-job performance of working spouses using annual surveys designed to measure occupational success — self-reported opinions on job satisfaction, salary increases and the likelihood of being promoted.  Workers who scored highest on measures of occupational success tended to have a spouse with a personality that scored high for conscientiousness, and this was true whether or not both spouses worked and regardless of whether the working spouse was male or female, the study found.  READ MORE

Putting Faith to Work Linked to Job Satisfaction.

(H/T PsychCentral)

Regular attendance in a church that stresses faith as a component of work is associated with high job satisfaction and employment commitment.

Baylor University sociologists discovered the influence depends in part on how involved that person is in the congregation, not merely on occasional attendance.

“We already knew that about 60 percent of American adults are affiliated with congregations, but we wanted to delve into whether that carries over from weekend worship services to the work day,” said Jerry Z. Park, Ph.D.

“It turns out it does make some difference in their attitudes at work. That means it has a potential ‘payoff’ not only for employers, but for employees themselves.”

Researchers asked a random sample of full-time employees if they attended a place of worship, and if so, they were then asked whether their congregation emphasized integrating their faith in the workplace through “sacrificial love” to their co-workers, sensing God’s presence at work among others.

What seemed to make the difference, researchers found, was frequent attendance at a church that stressed a merging of faith and work. Simply being at such a congregation — or just attending any church — did not result in greater work satisfaction or dedication.

The study is published in the journal Sociology of Religion.

Researchers’ analysis was based on the National Survey of Work, Entrepreneurship, and Religion, a 2010 Web-based survey of 1,022 fulltime workers. Their findings concentrated on three areas:

  • Job satisfaction: Full-time workers who regularly attend a congregation that emphasizes integrating their faith at work report higher job satisfaction;
  • Job commitment: Full-time workers who regularly attend a congregation that emphasizes integrating their faith at work report higher commitment to their place of employment;
  • Entrepreneurship: People who are actively involved in in congregations that promote integration of faith with work are more likely to describe themselves as entrepreneurial, Park said.

However, attendance seems to impede entrepreneurship — perhaps because time and energy spent in entrepreneurial endeavors leaves less time for church attendance.

“How religion affects job satisfaction, commitment to one’s job and entrepreneurship was measured by researchers using a 15-item Congregational Faith at Work Scale,” Park said.

That scale includes such items as whether respondents

  • sense God’s presence while they work;
  • view their work as having eternal significance;
  • view co-workers as being made in the image of God;
  • believe they should demonstrate “sacrificial love” toward co-workers, and;
  • believe God wants them to develop their abilities and talents at work.

Workplace attitudes such as job commitment also were evaluated by a variety of items that asked how much participants felt like “part of the family” at their organization, how efficiently they get proposed actions through “bureaucratic red tape” and whether they “went to bat” for good ideas of co-workers.

Max Weber, an early social theorist, argued that Protestants who lived strict, simple lives — such as the Calvinists of the 16th and 17th centuries — viewed their worldly employment as service to God, so religion added significance to labor. Success in business was viewed as confirmation of salvation.

“Religious participation is an active part of life for millions of Americans, and it is relevant in other domains,” the study concluded.

Source: Baylor University